All the best Sunday afternoons, chick flicks, and hostess gifts have one thing in common: they center entirely around places like Joan’s On Third. An old-fashioned, tree-lined facade, a cozy shop stuffed to the brim with perfectly curated pantry and entertaining staples, and a cafe to linger in for hours. This Paris-inspired eatery is one of LA’s most beloved cafes and the woman behind it all, Joan McNamara, runs the place in style with the help of her two daughters who’ve grown up, as they say below, whipping cream before they were tall enough to reach the kitchen counter!

We’re in the mood to linger at charming spots like Joan’s year round but, during the holidays, idyllic cafes and cozy shops are especially appealing. Joan and her daughters Susie and Carol crank into high gear this time of year catering half the holiday parties in town. This year, to add to the holiday mayhem, they’ve opened a second location of Joan’s just over the Hollywood Hills in Studio City. The place feels instantly a part of the neighborhood and is filled with the same chic esthetic we’ve all come to love from the original Joan’s.

We had the pleasure of gathering for dinner and a chat with the inimitable Joan herself recently, and we asked her and her daughters to let us in on a few of their holiday entertaining secrets and to tell us what keeps them inspired. Here are Joan, Carol and Susie – we hope fans of this francophile hotspot will love their anecdotes and, hostesses, take a few of their tips before planning your next soiree!

The Chalkboard Mag: What are your three must haves for the perfect holiday gathering?
the mcnamaras: Abundant fresh flowers, plentiful unscented candles and a seasonal cocktail (with a festive twist) – and a crackling fireplace, if you have one.

TCM: What are a few of the best hostess gifts holiday party guests can give?
THE MCNAMaRAS: The best gift you can give is to show up, share your presence and enjoy the warm, welcoming, wonderful experience. A few of our favorite hostess gifts are our gift crates and smaller gift totes – bring one stuffed with midnight snacks the host can munch on once the crowds have cleared! A bottle of wine is also always appreciated.

TCM: Do you have any favorite family recipes that have made it into the shop over the years?
THE MCNAMaRAS: The Chocolate Roulade is decadent and perfect for holiday entertaining. Joan made the Chocolate Roulade in her NYC restaurant days and we were always beating the freshly whipped cream (by hand with a very large whisk) as children growing up. We learned to roll the chocolate roulade before we could reach the kitchen counters (the kitchen stool came in handy). Joan’s Chocolate Roulade is a flourless chocolate cake rolled with fresh whipped cream. Delicious.

TCM: What’s included in the perfect gift box?
THE MCNAMaRAS: The perfect gift is always something that you would love to receive yourself. We love to give gifts and to create something that is perfect for the recipient. We like to include something sweet and something savory. A gift full of pantry items is something festive and fun (and useful, too).

TCM: What are your fave holiday treats/sweets:
THE MCNAMaRAS: Gingerbread boys and girls, peppermint bark, peppermint ice cream, decadent hot chocolate with handmade vanilla marshmallows, warm Chocolate Dream Cookies, pumpkin loaf breads right out of the oven, berry cobbler, rustic apple pies…

TCM: What do you suggest as the perfect gift for the Joan’s-obsessed foodie?
THE MCNAMaRAS: Our large gift crates are abundantly filled with wonderful gourmet treats…they can be lavishly filled with handmade items from our kitchen. Joan’s crates are the perfect gift for your favorite foodie. Sometimes adding a gift card is a fun way to make the gift even more spectacular by allowing the recipient to hand select more of their own favorite items.

TCM: What’s a good cooking tip for big dinners at home that you can share from all your catering experience?
THE MCNAMaRAS: Try to make most of the dishes ahead; I do love to spend time with my guests so I try to plan ahead, and just put on finishing touches right before dinner. Our guests always love to be in the kitchen! All the life and love of the party come from the lovely kitchen preparations.

TCM: What are some of your favorite catering locations?
THE MCNAMaRAS: The Book Bindery in LA and Lotus Land in Montecito.

TCM: What’s THE perfect meal to order at Joan’s in the winter?
THE MCNAMARAS: For breakfast, the Bonne Femme omelette, filled with potatoes, onions, bacon and jack cheese. It is fluffy — great for cooler mornings. The Turkey Meatloaf Sandwich has been a customer favorite for years; comfort food is always good in the winter! And our soups are comforting and wonderful… lentil soup, farro with roasted vegetable, beef chili, Italian wedding soup, chicken noodle soup, matzo ball soup, the list is endless.

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